“Now, there's something I've noticed lately. You probably have, too. And it's this. Maybe just because I grew up in a different time, but though I often disagree with Republicans, I actually never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate our president and a lot of other Democrats.”—Bill Clinton in his speech at the Democratic National Convention
Oklahoma City native Elizabeth Warren delivered a well-received speech at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night, but don’t expect the conservative corporate media here to praise it.
Warren, a former Harvard Law School professor now running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, chaired a Congressional panel beginning in 2008 that oversaw the federal Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, and she later helped create the U.S. Consumer Protection Bureau.
In essence, she served as a major watchdog for American citizens during one of the country’s worst economic downturns in history, a daunting task she completed with great skill.
Warren, pictured right, grew up with modest means and was raised by working class parents in Oklahoma City. She attended Northwest Classen High School before leaving the state at a young age. She’s a role model—or should be a role model—for thousands of Oklahoma City area students, who also may come from low-income homes.
In one of her speech’s most powerful moments, Warren directly challenged GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s statement on the campaign trail that corporations are people when he offhandedly referred to the legal concept of corporate personhood. “No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people,” Warren said. “People have hearts. They have kids. They get jobs. They get sick. They cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die, and that matters. That matters.”
Warren’s personal story and her success are compelling. Her speech was remarkable. But the local corporate media here, led by The Oklahoman, have pretty much normalized what former President Bill Clinton referred to Wednesday night as the “hate” of the “far right that now controls” the Republican Party. In other words, don’t expect good reviews for Warren’s speech in the local corporate press.
Under the prevailing Oklahoma GOP rubric and its propaganda machines, someone like Warren is an enemy and a left-wing radical because she’s a Democrat and she supports President Barack Obama. It doesn’t matter if she’s a hometown girl or not.
An editorial in The Oklahoman this convention week makes it clear. The downward slide of the Oklahoma Democratic Party is because of President Obama, according to the editorial. What Democrats here need to do, and I guess by extension all Democrats, including Warren, is reject the president of their own political party, it argues. If they do that, then everything will be okay with Democrats.
Of course, the newspaper itself, one of the most conservative in the nation, isn’t to be held accountable for its one-sided, inane and consistent criticism of Obama or, for that matter, Clinton either when he was president. All the hatred for these presidents was generated independently of the right-wing noise machine, right?
Meanwhile, Gov. Mary Fallin is serving as an attack dog for Mitt Romney’s campaign this week in Charlotte as Oklahoma taxpayers pick up some of the tab. Now there’s a hometown girl The Oklahoman can recognize for doing a good job.
The larger picture is this: Even if the GOP does win the presidency this year using the politics of hate and lies, it remains an endangered species in its current form in the long-term because of the growing diversity and cultural tolerance of this country. It will have to move left to survive as a viable political party, even in Oklahoma eventually. But there’s much damage it can do to the country’s social, medical and educational infrastructure in a few short years.
I expected that Gov. Mary Fallin’s first State of the State address would have been more partisan and ideological than it was given the Oklahoma Republican landslide in November, but a meeting that happened before her speech should worry Democrats more on a couple of levels.
On Monday morning, right before Fallin, pictured right, went through the typical Republican canards of tort, workers compensation and education “reform,” a Senate committee passed a bill that, if eventually approved, would strip the Oklahoma State Board of Education of any real authority.
Some outspoken Democrats have rallied around the board after some members—appointed by former Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat—questioned the credentials of recent hires by newly elected state Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi, a Republican.
Todd Goodman, head of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, even issued a “Call to arms!” email statement on Saturday about the pending committee legislation, arguing that “no one person can act as a dictator when it comes to educating our children.” This, even after two board members, Tim Gilpin and Herb Rozell, had to apologize for making jokes about the pregnancy of one of Barresi’s hires that they actually did approve at a recent contentious meeting of the board. (Here’s my take on their comments.)
Thus, the real message of the first day of the Oklahoma Legislature’s session this year: If Democrats try to get in the way of the Republican juggernaut with heavy-handed behavior, they can expect immediate and drastic consequences from Republicans.
Perhaps, the state School Board and its meetings could be a place where Democrats can take stands on important issues like education funding and so-called “school choice” and start to win back voters, but it seems unlikely that picking a fight over the people on Barresi’s senior management team is going to generate a lot of enthusiasm and, frankly, even interest. This, too, should worry Democrats. Why did some Democrats here pick this battle when there are so many others to fight?
As I’ve written before, I didn’t support Barresi, and I’m worried about her agenda. I worry, in particular, about the overall Republican push for so-called “school choice,” which could ultimately drain public schools of funding through an expanded voucher system or some hybrid of it. This is an important issue. Education funding here is expected to take at least a 3 percent cut for next fiscal year, and this comes after other recent cuts. This is an important issue. Who Barresi picks as her chief of staff or communications director might be an administrative problem because of institutional rules that can be easily changed, but it’s not an important issue.
Democrats should pick their issues more wisely and try to find ways to reverse their fortunes. That can only happen with messages and candidates that resonate with Oklahoma’s voters. Why fight it out over who is going to write Barresi’s press releases?
Meanwhile, Fallin got through her speech without using much confrontational language. She even threw out the idea of prison sentencing reform, something long championed by progressives. Her main agenda, though, is based on conservative initiatives. The odds are she will legislatively win all her initiatives over the next two years and probably many years after that.
Update: Another overreach among state Democrats on this issue is that somehow the Oklahoma Constitution protects the State Board of Education and its duties.
Here’s Article XIII, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution:
The supervision of instruction in the public schools shall be vested in a Board of Education, whose powers and duties shall be prescribed by law. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall be President of the Board. Until otherwise provided by law, the Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General shall be ex-officio members, and with the Superintendent, compose said Board of Education.
Note the terms “prescribed by law” and “otherwise provided by law.”
Actually, if the state went by a strict interpretation of the constitution, all the board members would currently be Republicans. As it stands now, the Republican Party, which controls the legislature and the executive branch, can do whatever it wants with the board. Also, do some Democrats here think that if the GOP wanted to repeal this part of the Oklahoma Constitution through a vote of the people that it wouldn’t happen?
Update: The use of the word "dictator" to describe Barresi by Democrats is the same as GOP rhetoric that describes President Barack Obama as "socialist."
U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, the Blue Dog Democrat from Oklahoma’s Second Congressional District, continues to draw heat for his ultra-conservative views, which include what some people argue is blatant pandering to big energy companies and the National Rifle Association.
Boren is drawing heat right now because he faces State Sen. Jim Wilson in the Democratic primary for his Congressional seat. Many state Democrats, and rightly so, are upset with Boren’s conservative positions that he argues reflect his constituents’ views but that others argue are most often diametrically opposed to mainstream Democratic political thinking.
As we know, Oklahoma is one of the reddest of red states, but Boren represents a traditional Democratic district, including Little Dixie, that has and will benefit greatly from some of President Barack Obama’s programs, including the new health care reform initiative, which Boren voted against.
Since 1990, Big Oil has invested around $144 million in the careers of congressmen, almost all conservatives. Almost 70% of the payoff have gone to Republicans. And among current members of the House there's only one Democrat in Big Oil's Top 10: Dan Boren ($565,460). As you can see, Big Oil is, by far, the biggest source of cash for his political endeavors. What you haven't been able to see, until Fox caught it on tape, is that Boren, who bragged about not voting for Obama and who has voted against virtually every piece of Democratic legislation since Obama has become president, has never found anything in the oil industry's agenda that he didn't get behind.
The Fox to which Klein was referring isn’t Fox News but Josh Fox, a filmmaker, who recently filmed Gasland, which is appearing on HBO. The film critiques the hydraulic fracturing drilling process, which some people argue leads to water contamination. In the film, Boren is depicted as a toady to the energy industry. (Go to the 1:30 mark on the film’s trailer posted above.)
Klein also dissects a recent Boren political ad, which shows him holding a rifle and touting his excellent rating from the NRA. The ad could have been easily produced for an ultra-conservative Republican. Here’s that ad:
Wilson has a difficult battle against the well-funded Boren, but many Oklahoma progressive Democrats think his campaign is worth it to show just how conservative Boren has become in recent years. Some might argue it’s not worth risking the chance the seat could be picked up by a Republican, but if we eliminate the expression of progressive views entirely from Oklahoma politics, what then?
You can contribute to Wilson’s campaign by clicking here.